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Modular is actually a design approach. An intelligent method that makes building almost anything better. It is a process that divides a system into smaller parts called modules. These modules can then be individually created and later, assembled together. The modular process is used in many products we use every day; cars, computers, elevators, furniture, etc. Modular design works to combine the production advantages of standardization with customer demand for customization. It is the smarter way that industries have discovered to produce custom products using standardized modules or assemblies. Modern modular construction makes use of the modular approach when it comes to building new custom homes.
Examples of the Modular Process
The modular approach is adapted slightly differently by industry. When you think about the products you see and use every day, most are assembled using a modular process. You may never actually think about the way many are built so here are a few examples:
Semi-Trucks: The large trucks hauling products to stores and heavy items down the highway are built using a modular, assembly line process. The factory itself doesn’t build every item that is in each truck. The truck is designed in a modular fashion. The individual pieces, or modules, in the design of the truck are then built by many other companies. Items such as the dashboard, the seats, the axles, the tires, the engine, the transmission… they are built somewhere else and then delivered to the assembly plant.
The truck assembly plant fabricates the frame and the body of the truck in most locations but the rest of the truck is assembled using the subassemblies, or modules, that were pre-built in other locations. All of these pieces are precisely put together so that a large, powerful truck is created. These trucks are workhorses that will be driven millions of miles over their service life
Computers: A computer manufacturer doesn’t build every piece or item on a computer. Companies like Intel or Motorola build the processor chips. Companies like Seagate or Western Digital build the hard drives, and many other companies from around the world build the rest of the parts such as memory chips, power supplies, circuit boards, etc. The computer manufacturer takes each of these modules and creatively assembles them just as you order your new computer so you get a modularly assembled computer that was custom built to your unique specification. This process is called mass customization.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner: In 2003 Boeing designed its new airliner, the 787 Dreamliner, to compete with the Airbus 380. It took a novel approach to its construction. It would take advantage of the modular design process to build each one. After years of design, the $200 million per plane project got off the ground. An airplane has to be built to be safe. A single plane is entrusted with thousands of lives every day. The performance regiment is grueling. Takeoffs and landings, weather, and wear can take a toll on any product. It has to be built to withstand amazing stresses.
Boeing believed that using the modular approach for the 787’s construction was the way to speed production, increase quality, and manage costs. After a learning period with the new process, Boeing is achieving all that it wanted from the use of the modular approach and more. Boeing has attained production rates of 12 planes per month. There are now over 521 flying as of April 2017. The 787 Dreamliner is another example of how an expensive, safety-critical, and complex product can take advantage of the modular build process.
The Modular Advantage
There are many reasons that industries choose to use the modular approach. The custom home construction industry has adapted modular construction for many reasons. Here are just a few:
- Faster Completion Time
- A home’s construction time can be reduced because the site work portion in the field and the actual construction on the home’s modules are being done separately, but simultaneously.
- Initial testing of many of a home’s system (plumbing and electrical) is being done prior to delivery to the site.
- Weather is virtually eliminated as a delay because of the work in being done indoors.
- Reduced Costs
- Labor costs are reduced because of lost productivity due to weather.
- Much of the rework is eliminated due to issues at the site.
- Fewer Resources Used
- Factory production is designed to minimize, reused, or eliminate waste
- Less wasted work time because of the concentration of many homes being constructed in one locations versus spreading resources across scattered lots for typical custom home construction.
- Safer for Workers
- Ideal working conditions: even temperatures, no precipitation, no wind versus site condition
- Level ground reduces fall and injury issues.
- Higher Quality
- Consistent processes
- Continuous inspection
- Trained and consistent workforce
Smart builders and smart homeowners are learning about the key advantages of modular construction. The custom home building industry is one of the last industries to embrace the advantages that every other major industry and product has discovered with modular, factory production. The changing construction labor force and demand for better and consistent quality are now driving the entire custom home building industry to find a better solution.
Modular Doesn’t Mean Boring
Many people are still under the misconception that creativity and productivity have to be odds with each other. They equate the productivity of modular home construction with doing the same thing over and over limiting the creativity of home design. While the modular approach is efficient for construction, don’t equate it with loss of creativity.
Design itself begins with constraints. When you decide to build a Craftsman style home or a Cape Cod style home, you have defined the constraints you will work under with your design. You create a beautiful home within the constraints of that style. With modular, it is much the same. While there are some constraints, beautiful homes are created and designed. Architects and home designers are learning and enjoying the opportunities that come with using modular construction when designing today’s homes. Smart designers are learning the modular method.
Modular Means More
Modular design is smart. Every industry for virtually every complex product has already found that the modular design and build approach is the best way to standardize the components of a product for efficiency and then assemble them into a larger end product for customization to the ultimate customer. It provides more value, quality, and overall customer satisfaction with the final product.
Smart home buyers today are learning that they can have those same things in their new custom home when the modular process is used to build it. There isn’t the need to do it the way it has always been done. The future of custom home construction is here today.
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